Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Florida early Sunday morning. The U.S. Coast Guard said Fernandez was one of three people killed in a boat crash off Miami Beach. Fernandez was 24 years old. The Marlins announced that Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Braves has been canceled. “The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time,” the team said in a statement. The Miami Dolphins plan to hold a moment of silence for Fernandez before their game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, a team official told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Chief Petty Officer Nyxolyno Cangemi told The Associated Press that a Coast Guard patrol boat spotted an overturned boat at 3:30 a.m. on a jetty near Government Cut. The bodies were discovered a short time later. Because the boat was on a jetty, the Coast Guard notified Miami-Dade police, which turned the investigation over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Fernandez was on a 32-foot vessel that had a “severe impact” with a jetty, said Fish and Wildlife spokesman Lorenzo Veloz. Fernandez had announced on Instagram last week that his girlfriend was pregnant.

“All of Baseball is shocked and saddened by the sudden passing of Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández,” Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “He was one of our game’s great young stars who made a dramatic impact on and off the field since his debut in 2013. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, the Miami Marlins organization and all of the people he touched in his life.”

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark also released a statement Sunday morning: “We are devastated by the news that Jose Fernandez has tragically passed. Jose was a remarkable young man and a tremendously gifted athlete, who at just 24, established himself as one of the game’s biggest and brightest stars. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jose’s family, friends, teammates, Miami Marlins organization and legions of fans in the United States and Latin America.”

Fernandez’s next start had been pushed back from Sunday to Monday to make room for Adam Conley’s return from the disabled list.

Before his career began, Fernandez endured a harrowing experience during his 2008 emigration from Cuba as he sought to realize his dream of pitching in the majors. He and his party dodged bullets from Cuban coast guard boats as they journeyed to Mexico. Along the way, Fernandez’s mother, Maritza, fell in the water, and he saved her from drowning (Twitter link via Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated). “I dove to help a person not thinking who that person was,” said Fernandez. “Imagine when I realized it was my own mother. If that does not leave a mark on you for the rest of your life, I don’t know what will.”

Fernandez’s successful defection from Cuba came after three failed attempts, all of which occurred before he turned 15. Each of those three instances resulted in jail time for Fernandez, who became a United States citizen in 2015. Three years after Fernandez departed his homeland, the Marlins selected him with the 14th pick of the 2011 draft. Two years later, he debuted with the Marlins and immediately emerged as one of the majors’ most electrifying arms. In 172 2/3 innings in 2013, Fernandez registered a sterling 2.19 ERA to go with 9.75 K/9 against 3.02 BB/9 en route to National League Rookie of the Year honors.

Fernandez underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2014, which limited him to 51 2/3 innings that year and 64 2/3 frames last season. He returned in earnest this year and dominated the opposition, logging a 2.86 ERA, 12.49 K/9 and 2.71 BB/9 across a personal-best 182 1/3 innings. Overall, the ace amassed 471 1/3 career major league innings, recorded a 2.58 ERA, 11.25 K/9 and 2.67 BB/9, and earned two All-Star nods. The 34.3 percent strikeout rate he put up ranks third all-time behind a pair of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez. “He was the heartbeat of our team,” a Marlins official told Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).

Fernandez joins a long list of active baseball players to die in accidents, including Cleveland Indians pitchers Tim Crews, 31 and Steve Olin, 27, who were killed in a boating accident in Clermont, Florida on March 22, 1993. Indians pitcher Bobby Ojeda was also on the boat and lost four pints of blood, but survived.

We here at SportsZone send our heartfelt condolences to Fernandez’ family, the Marlins organization and all who knew him. This is a true tragedy. Rest in Peace Jose Fernandez.

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